In VA reform bill, Congress provides student vets with in-state tuition

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Congress approves measure that effectively requires states to offer in-state tuition to recent veterans and their families. The bill won approval over the concerns of some public universities.

Parents Are Paying More for College

Out-of-pocket contributions to cover the price of college rose in 2014 after three years of decreases, according to the seventh annual installment of a study the lender Sallie Mae released today. Parents in particular are picking up more of tuition costs, and now pay for 30 percent of the total amount from their own income and savings. Higher-income parents contributed a much larger share than their less wealthy peers, the study found. Students paid for 12 percent from their own income and savings. Both parents and students are borrowing less to pay for college. Borrowed funds covered 22 percent of costs, a decline from 27 percent in the two prior years.

Report: Work-Study Students More Likely to Graduate

Students who participate in the federal work-study program are more likely to graduate and be employed six years after college than their similar counterparts who don’t participate in the program, according to a new study.

Two Columbia University researchers, Judith Scott-Clayton and Veronica Minaya, examined the impact of work-study jobs on students’ academic and future employment outcomes compared to students working in non-work-study jobs and those not working at all.

They found that the work-study program had a positive academic effect – but no impact on later employment – for work-study students who planned to work during college regardless of whether they received the federal benefit (about half of all work-study students). For the other segment of work-study students – students who would not have worked without work-study – the researchers found no or a slightly negative impact on academics but positive effects on their post-college employment.

The authors of the study also found that the positive effects of the work-study program were magnified for lower-income and lower-SAT students compared with their wealthier, higher-scoring peers.

That finding, the authors write, suggest that the effectiveness of the Federal Work-Study program “might be increased by modifying the allocation formula--which currently provides disproportionate support to students at elite private institutions--to better target lower-income and lower-scoring students.”

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Student debt once again popular on the campaign trail, as Democrats look to keep Senate

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As Democrats look to keep their grip on the U.S. Senate, they’re touting their support of legislation to let borrowers refinance their debt at lower interest rates. 

At Senate hearing aimed at states' role in college affordability, Indiana attorney general points finger at feds

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At Senate hearing, state and federal officials point fingers at one another when discussing who can fix issues of college cost and access.

U.S. House votes to change college tax breaks, boost student loan counseling

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Lawmakers' overhaul of higher education tax benefits gives colleges and universities things to cheer and protest. They also approve a bill to boost student loan counseling. 

Obama signs workforce training bill, announces new executive action to overhaul federal job training programs

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Obama administration continues efforts to streamline programs, many of which involve community colleges. But efforts to promote reporting of job results worry some educators.

Former College Financial Aid Chief Faces Fraud Charges

Christine Mordach, former head of financial aid at Merrimack College, is facing federal fraud charges, The Boston Business Journal reported. She allegedly promised students grants, but then tricked them into taking Perkins loans, and didn't provide the help she promised with loan repayment. Mordach's lawyer predicted "a speedy resolution of this issue," but did not elaborate. Authorities indicated that the college was a victim of the fraud.



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Senate Panel Boosts Pentagon Research, Curbs Funding to For-Profits

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week passed a bill to fund the Defense Department that would increase the Pentagon's basic research budget and also place new restrictions on the flow of federal dollars to for-profit colleges. The $549.3 billion funding measure, which lawmakers on the panel approved last Thursday, includes a 5 percent increase in funding for Department of Defense basic research. Such research would receive $2.27 billion in funding for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The Obama administration had sought a nearly 7 percent reduction in Pentagon-sponsored research.

The Association of American Universities on Monday praised the committee for rejecting that proposed cut.  "We commend the Committee for taking another step toward closing the innovation deficit and will work to sustain this funding level as the bill advances and is ultimately reconciled with the House bill," said Hunter Rawlings, the group's president.

Separately, the panel also approved a provision, pushed by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, that would place a new restriction on some of the federal military benefits that are used at for-profit colleges.  Durbin's language would change the so-called "90/10 rule" that caps for-profit colleges' receipt of grants and loans administered by the Education Department at 90 percent of their annual revenue. The bill would include money from the Pentagon's Tuition Assistance program as part of that cap. Such benefits, as well as veterans' educational aid, are not included in that calculation, which for-profit critics say makes them vulnerable to aggressive and predatory recruiting. For-profit industry representatives have rejected such efforts, arguing that they would reduce access to their institutions for servicemembers and veterans.

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FAFSAs With Decimal Place Error Will Be Reprocessed

The U.S. Department of Education said Friday that it will automatically reprocess the federal financial aid applications of tens of thousands of students whose aid eligibility was likely reduced because of a decimal place error. The problem came to light this month after some students and families filling out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, incorrectly entered both dollars and cents into a box that was supposed to accept only whole-dollar values.

As a result, the agency said, the government’s computer system interpreted a student reporting an income of $5,000.19 as having an income of $500,019, which would likely reduce that student’s eligibility for need-based grants and loans.

Department officials said in guidance to colleges on Friday that they planned re-process the applications of the “fewer than 200,000 applicants” nationwide who they believe were affected by the problem. The department also said that on July 1 it reprogrammed its online FAFSA form to automatically drop any fractional dollar amounts that are erroneously entered into the system in order to prevent the problem from recurring. 

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